3.4-litre flat-six RSR-aping 1983 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2
Eagerly awaiting a 3.4-litre flat-six and finished in a hulk-like hue, this RSR-aping Carrera 3.2 is a fiendishly fascinating classic Porsche with giant road presence… Words Dan Furr and Johnny Tipler. Photography Nick Caro.
CREATING A MONSTER
Shrek, the utterly transformed Carrera 3.2.
Beautiful, isn’t it? Based on a late Carrera 3.2, this green wide monster is the result of Paul Cockell, founder of Cotswold-based independent Porsche sales and restoration specialist, Rennsport, waving his tuning stick to great effect.
GREEN-SKINNED, PHYSICALLY INTIMIDATING AND EXHIBITING LOOKS DRAWING ATTENTION FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD
“Everything he does is sympathetic to Porsche’s period engineering values,” says the car’s proud owner, Ollie Smith. “His team builds each bespoke 911 to an owner’s exacting specification, delivering a truly personalised Porsche as if it was new from the factory.”
The 911 you see here — nicknamed Shrek on account of its exaggerated body and coat of OEM-true Chartreuse paint — is one of Rennsport’s celebrated RSR builds, though it has yet to be treated to the 3.4-litre oversized engine upgrade so often associated with Cockell’s creations. “It’s on the cards,” Ollie assures us. “Complete with AT Power throttle injection, Emerald standalone engine management and competition camshafts, the bigger-displacement flat-six should be in place this summer.” Promising a significant increase in output, the blueprinted, high-compression, Nikasil-lined boxer should deliver in excess of 300bhp. “It won’t be stupid quick, but there will be enough extra shove to give this 911 performance more in keeping with its looks.”
BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED CARRERA RSR 2.8-APING BODYWORK AND CLASSIC SPORTS SEATS TRIMMED IN FINE MUIRHEAD HIDE
Let’s refresh our memories regarding Carrera 3.2 history. Introduced in late 1983 for the 1984 model year, the Carrera 3.2 replaced the three-litre 911 SC, employing the same body-chassis unit with a few detail improvements. Like the SC, the Carrera 3.2 was offered with Coupé and Targa body styles, but also introduced Cabriolet, Club Sport and Speedster variants.
A major alteration to specification came in 1987 with the introduction of the stronger Getrag G50 gearbox in place of the more delicate 915 unit. Also in 1987, the mechanical cable clutch was superseded, replaced with a hydraulic clutch. Ollie’s car was built late 1987, meaning it makes use of a G50 and hydraulic clutch.
These cars are extremely robust — sturdier than the SC, and, dare we say it, even the follow-on 964. You see, there’s a no-nonsense solidity to the Carrera 3.2 — body shells were made entirely of hot-dip galvanized steel, one of the reasons they endure so well. Additionally, the 5mph impact bumpers absorbed minor traffic mishaps, sliding backwards against collapsible steel tubes in European-spec cars and hydraulic rams on those shipped to the United States.
NATURE OF THE BEAST
The Carrera 3.2 driving experience is an encounter all of its own. Obviously, it’s not too far removed from the earlier 2.7, Carrera 3.0 or SC, but the 3.2 is a more solid proposition, and it feels it. There’s no question Porsches of this era were built to last. With its torsion bar suspension, the Carrera 3.2 is also quite different to the later 964, which was equipped with coil-sprung suspension and power-assisted steering. This means, with the Carrera 3.2, a certain amount of muscle power is needed at the controls.
As for those floor-hinged pedals, your right heel may be on the deck as you pressure the throttle, but your left foot will be dancing in mid-air, dealing with the heavy clutch and un-servo’d braking system. On the move, all your senses come into play. The absence of power steering has an upside because everything is full-on and sensitive. Feedback is instantaneous — you feel exactly what the suspension is doing and where the car is going. Your own reactions are honed to match.
All Carrera 3.2s are hugely involving, nowhere more so than twisty back roads. Put it this way, on an indifferently surfaced B-road, the front wheels bubble over every undulation as they feel out the topography. The car is alive, a creature working out which passage to take for best effect. You’re controlling this 911 by light movements of the steering wheel as it bucks slightly in your hands with every passing bump. The faster you go, the steering progressively loads up — the more physically demanding (and rewarding) the drive becomes.
The Carrera 3.2 is rated at a respectable 237bhp at 5,900rpm and 284Nm torque at 4,800rpm. Clearly, the 3.4-litre upgrade Ollie has promised his Porsche is going to transform the driving experience, enabling the car to cover ground at far more rapid pace. Still and all, the Carrera 3.2 offers relatively long gearing, both in 915 and G50 formats, which matches with the slow and methodical nature of the gearshift. You go from one slot to another quite deliberately — you can’t just whack it through the gate. It’s not ponderous, because you have to be meticulous about where you move the lever. Shift a 915 from fifth to fourth, and you have to be calculated about your movement, else you quickly graunch into reverse. A G50 is less sensitive, but still demands precise shifting.
Put your foot down in fifth, and you can be sure the 3.2-litre flat-six will deliver the power, although it’s not devastating. Better drop a cog in an overtaking situation to be safe. Equally, you notice how strongly the 3.2 pulls when you approach the legal limit — between 4,000rpm and 6,000rpm, this thing really delivers. Third gear overtaking on A-roads is stunningly fast, accompanied by the raucous boxer bellowing as the revs scream towards 6,000rpm. Power builds relentlessly until you run out of road or become a fixture of a slowcoach’s rear-view mirror. Conversely, the 3.2 is admirably torquey and will pull inexorably from 1,500rpm in top. Based on our experience of Rennsport rides, after the jump to 3.4 litres, Ollie’s car will feel positively ballistic by comparison.
As for rallentando, you need to get your braking done first, ideally trail-braking up to a corner, although Carrera 3.2 stoppers are so powerful that an occasional stab will remove speed if you happen to be travelling a tad too fast approaching a bend. This sudden slowing is even more apparent in Ollie’s 911, which benefits from Carrera 3.2 Clubsport anchors loaded with EBC Yellowstuff pads.
Elsewhere on the chassis, further trick bits of kit include Bilstein sport-spec dampers, uprated torsion bars, a Quaife limited-slip differential and sixteen-inch Braid RSR wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes TR1 tyres boasting ten inches of width at the back nine at the front. Needless to say, Rennsport’s work has hugely improved the base Carrera 3.2’s already impressive handling. You drive a Carrera 3.2 through the corners — apply the lock early, steer it through, lock off, perhaps a bit of oversteer induced with the wheel, but most likely by use of the throttle — foot off to make the front-end tuck in, or foot on to drift out. On back roads, you can fly by the seat of your pants, attacking rather than defensive, positive rather than passive. The Carrera 3.2 is very much a usable — even every day — classic. Point to point, a standard example may not be the quickest sports car you’ll ever drive, but it’s fun and rewarding. Today, the only impediment to ownership is the cost of buying a Carrera 3.2 in a market only too keen to keep pushing air-cooled 911 prices skyward.
Talking of which, it’s important for us to highlight the fact Ollie wasn’t this Rennsport build’s commissioning owner. “I’m good friends with the founders of Oakham-based luxury car dealer, Top 555,” he tells us. “I was perusing the company’s sales stock list and was taken aback by the sight of a Signal Orange Rennsport RSR 3.4. The car was built by Paul Cockell’s team to double up as his personal Porsche and as a demonstrator to show potential Rennsport clients what the company could produce and build to individual requirements and specification.” Previously displayed at the 2019 Goodwood Revival and based on a G50-equipped 1987 Carrera 3.2, the car had undergone a full bare body restoration using all new steel panels, including wings, rear arches, sills, B-posts, kidney bowls and bonnet. “The intention is to echo the look of the Carrera RSR 2.8, as if Porsche had built a roadgoing version of the model,” Ollie confirms. “In doing so, Rennsport introduces bodywork modifications to improve engine cooling and aerodynamics,” he adds, referencing the car’s lightweight composite front and rear bumpers, as well as the carbon-composite ducktail. “I immediately fell in love.” He wasn’t the only one — half-hour after he picked up the phone to discuss potential purchase with the Top 555 team, another interested party took the initiative and laid down a deposit. Drat.
Ollie has owned many modern Porsches, citing GTS and GT4-badged Caymans, not to mention an Ultraviolet 991 GT3 RS, as recent fixtures of his driveway. He’s no stranger to air-cooled 911s, a result of his father owning “fifteen or sixteen” brand-new examples in the 1980s and 1990s. “He’d buy a new one every twelve months. I have fond memories of being ferried around in those cars during my formative years,” he smiles, recognising the strong impression these 911s left on his younger self has dictated his own journey into air-cooled Porsche ownership as something of an inevitability. It’s a pursuit he hasn’t taken lightly. “I asked the Top 555 team to keep me posted about the availability of any further Rennsport RSR builds they learned of. Essentially, I was registering my frustration at ‘the one that got away’!”
His persistence paid off when Paul informed Top 555 of news concerning a Rennsport customer’s desire to begin a bespoke build based on a 911 Targa. The same client had already commissioned the company to create the Carrera 3.2-based beast seen here, but was looking to part with the car to help finance his new project. Ollie was only too happy to take on ownership.
With the exception of its Motronic-managed 3.2-litre flat-six, overall specification of the green machine is more or less the same as the zesty orange demonstrator. Both cars feature the previously mentioned suspension, steering, braking, transmission, wheel and tyre upgrades, both make use of beautifully crafted Carrera RSR 2.8- aping bodywork and both feature classic sport seats (Scheel for the orange 911, Recaro for Chartreuse Shrek) trimmed in fine Muirhead hide, although Ollie’s car makes use of houndstooth seat centres (“I wasn’t sure at first, but they’re growing on me”) instead of full leather. A 917-inspired wooden gear knob and a MOMO three-spoke steering wheel punctuates the cabin of both 911s, while the car in our photos has also been treated to a Porsche Classic Communication Management (PCCM) system. Electric air-conditioning is a standard feature of the exclusive Rennsport RSR line-up.
CREATURE OF HABIT
Considering this is Ollie’s first air-cooled 911 — nobody could ever accuse him of doing things by halves — and he’s fresh from a string of decidedly modern watercooled Porsches, we wonder if the driving experience has lived up to expectation. “Absolutely,” he says, without hesitation. “In addition to the GT Porsches I’ve owned, I’ve spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel of new mainstream 911s, which are all turbocharged, regardless of whether they carry a Turbo badge. I find them bereft of satisfying sound and, let’s face it, the modern 911 is far too big. It’s difficult to feel truly connected to a new Porsche, whereas being in control of an air-cooled 911 is a visceral experience. These older sports cars reward you for playing with revs and they take off like a rocket ship in the midrange. Also, it’s impossible to ignore how light an air-cooled 911 really is — you feel as though you’re travelling fast in these cars, even when you’re well below the speed limit. You need to be powering along prohibitively fast in a modern 911, even a GT3, to come anywhere close to the same sensation.”
Green-skinned, physically intimidating and exhibiting looks drawing a huge amount of attention from the outside world, this remarkable Carrera 3.2 certainly lives up to its name. And with the promise of a higher-output 3.4-litre engine to promote more urgent fast-road and track use, it will soon have a wilder, ogre-worthy roar to match. It’s gonna be champagne wishes and caviar dreams from now on!
Above Looks echoing Rennsport’s interpretation of a road-going classic 911 RSR.
Above The Rennsport team treated every aspect of the build with sympathy to period Porsche engineering work.
Above Angry and with looks to startle any onlooker, just like the ogre which lends its name to this Rennsport ride.
Above Retro Recaros trimmed in leather and houndstooth is a classic combination and one which works brilliantly set against this reimagined Carrera 3.2’s green paintwork.
Above A blueprinted high-compression 3.4-litre flat-six will be installed this summer.